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Conservation Drainage Projects

Drainage water management and saturated buffers for achieving Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy goals

Figure_30b_05 Agricultural producers farming the 9.7 million acres of tile-drained land in Illinois need a wide variety of proven options to reduce nitrogen loss. Two practices that may reduce tile drainage N loss, but are not in the Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy, are drainage water management (or, controlled drainage) and saturated buffers. The goal of this work is to evaluate N loss reduction provided by these two practices to assess their potential inclusion as recommended practices in Illinois.

Funding Partner: Illinois Nutrient Research and Education Council
Co-PIs: Drs. Richard Cooke and Paul Davidson, Biological & Agricultural Engineering, University of Illinois



Dissolving uncertainty: A comprehensive evaluation of dissolved P in tile drainage

IMG_3348As major P-related water impairments continue to generate headlines and stir regulatory interest, there is an increasing need to better understand factors impacting P transported from areas where agriculture is heavily underpinned by tile drainage. This work builds on the momentum of the previously established “Measured Annual Nutrient loads from AGricultural Environments” (MANAGE) database to develop a new “Drain Concentration” table to answer questions about how and why P is transported in subsurface drainage. More information is available on the project page.

Funding Partner: Illinois Nutrient Research and Education Council
Collaborator: Dr. Daren Harmel, USDA ARS
Graduate Student Lead: Allan Hertzberger


Balancing water quality and nutrient management goals for the sustainable intensification of corn systems

The recently released Illinois Nutrient Loss Reduction Strategy provides guidance on suggested conservation practices to improve agricultural water quality, but there is limited scientific evidence on the effectiveness of these practices when implemented in combination in Illinois corn production systems. We will establish a sustainable intensification research site at the University of Illinois Dudley Smith Farm with the aim of evaluating the combined effects of water quality practices on tile drainage nutrient losses, nutrient use efficiencies, and crop yields. More information is available on the project page.

Funding Partner: The University of Illinois ACES Dudley Smith Intiative
Lead PI: Dr. Cameron Pittelkow, Crop Sciences, University of Illinois


Assessing synergies and tradeoffs of recommended BMPs to reduce nutrient losses

Using the newly installed drainage research infrastructure at the University of Illinois Dudley Smith Farm, we seek to answer the question: are current efforts primarily minimizing nitrate losses, but having negative impacts on crop productivity, nutrient utilization, tile drainage P losses, and/or greenhouse gas emissions? This study will provide a critical evaluation of in-field and edge-of-field practices to provide a holistic understanding of best practices for reducing nutrient losses while maintaining crop production goals.

Funding Partner: Illinois Nutrient Research and Education Council
Lead PI: Dr. Cameron Pittelkow, Crop Sciences, University of Illinois


Meta-analyses on Fertilizer Management – Results and Recommendations

This work will summarize the critical data gaps found by the 4R Research Fund-supported meta-analysis teams and provide recommendations for field researchers to aid future data synthesis efforts in making the most effective use of their data following initial publication.

Funding Partner: The 4Rs Research Fund
Lead PI: Dr. Alison Eagle, Duke University
Collaborators: Dr. Rachel Cook, NCSU; Dr. Daren Harmel, USDA ARS; Dr. Fernando Miguez, Iowa State University